Chronic back pain is a common problem and is often considered a form of musculoskeletal pain. A variety of treatments exist, though their efficacy largely depends on the type of pain the patient is experiencing. For example, if a patient experiences back pain due to sciatica, a variety of treatments are available, including epidural steroid injections, chiropractic care, and acupuncture.
Other causes of back pain may require a surgical approach, with varying reports. While surgery is generally considered the first line of treatment for herniated discs, for example, surgical complications can cause more harm than good.
In this article, we’ll explore some common causes of chronic back pain, and when non-surgical treatments are appropriate for those conditions.
Causes of Chronic Back Pain
Chronic back pain can be caused by a variety of factors, including:
- An injury (e.g. resulting from excessive weight lifting with poor form)
- Herniated or bulging discs
- Spinal arthritis
- Spinal stenosis
It’s often difficult for doctors to pinpoint the exact cause of chronic back pain, and may refer a patient to a back pain specialist, such as an orthopedist. It’s important to research available options in your area. For example, non surgical spine treatments in New Jersey are bolstered by New Jersey having the 3rd oldest, and most experienced, doctor workforce in the nation.
The treatment options for these conditions can be quite different, with many patients being prescribed painkillers and physical therapy. For some patients, however, surgery may be the best option for chronic back pain.
The most common types of back surgery include:
- Lumbar disc replacement
- Lumbar fusion
- Sacroiliac joint fusion
- Cervical disc replacement
In some cases, spine surgery may be the best option for a patient with severe back pain, or if the patient’s back pain is worsening. However, other options are typically exhausted first, at the discretion of a doctor, and surgery is not a first-line treatment in many cases.
Nonsurgical Treatments for Chronic Back Pain
Some patients with chronic back pain may be able to alleviate their symptoms with a variety of non-surgical treatments.
Physical therapy is the foremost treatment for many types of chronic back pain. A physical therapist can help a patient identify and correct any issues that may be contributing to their back pain, and can also recommend exercises to help alleviate the pain.
A physical therapist can also recommend treatment for any underlying conditions, such as an injury or a weakness in the spine, that may be contributing to the patient’s back pain.
Physical therapy will typically seek to address problems such as poor posture, flexibility, and a weak musculoskeletal system. These can be highly effective approaches to treating chronic back pain, provided the underlying issue is related to posture or muscular deficiencies, or injuries that have not damaged the spinal cord.
Injection-based treatments are also commonly used. Typical injection-based treatments include epidural steroid injections, nerve ablations, nerve blocks, and spinal cord stimulators.
Spinal cord stimulators are electric devices that are implanted in the spine and are designed to treat chronic pain by stimulating the spinal cord. These devices have been proven to be effective in treating chronic back pain, though they will not cure the underlying condition.
Holistic and alternative approaches
Additional nonsurgical treatments for chronic back pain can include homeopathic and holistic approaches, such as acupuncture, natural medicines such as Kali Carbonicum, chiropractic care, and meditative exercises such as yoga.
Chiropractic care is a particular area that receives much debate, as some chiropractors claim to treat back pain by adjusting the spine, while others claim that their manipulation methods can treat pain in the spine without altering the spine itself.
Chiropractors are not medical doctors and are considered a form of alternative medicine, so a doctor will not typically refer patients to a chiropractic professional. The jury is out on whether or not chiropractic treatments are truly effective, but research suggests that they are.